Clean It Up, Scratch It Out: The Censorship Debate
By Simone Watson, 11th grade
February 25, 2009
Picture this: a normal teenager is walking down the street, wearing baggy shorts and a tattered shirt. On his shoulder is a large boom box stereo that blasts the latest hits off of Billboard Top 100. The songs’ lyrics contain a variety of curse words and other offensive material that annoy fellow pedestrians. When an elderly man asks the teenager to turn it down, he replies, by saying, “Yo! Back off my case, old man! I can listen to whatever I want wherever I feel like it!” Unfortunately, this scenario has become all too commonplace.
While younger generations embrace freedom of language and beauty, older generations balk at what they view as overwhelming vulgarity. No American, for instance, can deny that sex appeal is here to stay, for it’s the biggest advertisement out there. If tasteful, it promotes beauty and sophistication. If not tasteful and bordering pornographic, a child or teenager can be influenced for the worse. Such fear of an unknown result, whether beneficial or nefarious rocks the censorship debate. The issue of censoring material has been heavily profiled in the news today because it affects many areas of popular entertainment.
To begin with, censorship does not only pertain to the music industry. Art exhibits, television shows and popular books such as Gossip Girl have gained every kind of attention. Struggles over this issue have even reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Even some notable magazines have said, at its most local level, censorship is about parents deciding what the children of other parents should read or Not read is more like it.
Watching their children become coarse and “worldly,” parents lay blame on whatever provides insight into this glamorous “no-work-and-all-play” imaginary world. When it comes to books, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is probably the most censored novel in American history. Many believe it should be so because of its excessive use of racial slurs, particularly the N-word. Others protest that, by censoring the novel, one also censors the story behind the words that the author portrays to readers. Still, Huck Finn is banned in over 100 schools and libraries across the United States, and controversial novels such as those in the Harry Potter series are burned publicly.
While book burnings turn into commonplace riots, a disapproving eye has also been cast on risqué art exhibits and television shows. Think of the transition an edited painting makes before an exhibit. Homosexual art, especially of the historical genre, has always been retouched by future generations. But many argue that by doing so one can be accused of “retouching” the past.
The same controversy appears when it comes to commonly received works of art such as Shakespearean plays. Nude scenes and violent battles are almost always edited out of school plays. Older generations also worry about the lack of celebrity role models available to younger people. Sex scenes on prime time and popular television shows are easily accessible to teenagers as well as children. Rarely do they see their favorite celebrity’s character suffer from real consequences of AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases. While negative media trends should continue to be studied, younger people still point out their freedoms of creativity and speech. Many believe exposure to the “risqué” cultures them and allows freedom of the mind.
Clearly divided by age as well as mindsets between conservatives and liberals, the issue of censoring has reached a peak in society news. Censoring also casts light on delicate subjects like parental rights. Many parents argue that they should retain the right to interfere in the classroom curriculum, but many creative teachers refuse to concur. Despite opposing views, truth can be found on both sides of the debate. Adults fear that vulgarity will befoul their children’s minds. Younger people claim that vulgarity is unable to be judged, for only the wildest cases gain national attention.
Obviously, a balance must be found between valuable old-time morals and new world ideologies. Only we can decide whether our society is being stimulated culturally or sunk morally by what we censor and what we leave alone.